Lavinia Fontana : an artist and her society in late sixteenth century Bologna
This thesis is a study of the career of one of Europe's first truly successful female painters with the largest attributable oeuvre of any woman artist before the 18th century. It incorporates an analysis of the tastes and consumption patterns, lifestyles and mentalities of the patriciate clergy and scholars of Counter Reformation Bologna who were her patrons. The intent is to identify and categorise her patrons and to explore her artistic appeal to them and to explain the work opportunities created by Counter Reformation initiatives including church refurbishment and charity institutions. It breaks down into six chapters: the first concerns family background, how and why Fontana's painter father Prospero trained her as a painter, the circumstances surrounding her marriage and how it contributed to her career: The second is about her initial clientèle of scholars and intellectuals connected with the University at Bologna whose portraits she painted and the Europe-wide cult of collections of images of uomini famosi which helped to give her an international reputation. The three middle chapters deal with the group of Bolognese noblewomen who were undoubtedly Fontana's most significant and high spending patrons, for whom she painted altarpieces, portraits and private devotional works and to whom she became personally connected through godparentage (she had eleven children). One of these chapters looks at these patrons in general terms, the next concerns Laudomia Gozzadini, for whom Fontana painted an enormous family portrait that had very special significance and resonance in the lives of both patron and painter. The fifth chapter considers the work Fontana produced for wealthy widows in Bologna. By identifying some of the widows in question it has been possible to pursue their particular family circumstances to see what kind of widow sought to commemorate her state and what options for interpretation were offered within predicative literature. The sixth and final chapter looks at work intended for the youth of Bologna and pictures that involved children from the moment of conception until their late adolescence. The diversity of her patrons and their artistic needs demonstrates the expansion and success of Fontana's business.